Gov. Reynolds signs mental health, teen suicide prevention bills

Gov. Kim Reynolds signed two bills on Thursday that represent Iowa’s commitment to treating Iowans facing mental health challenges with compassion and dignity.

House File 2456 is a comprehensive mental health bill. In her Condition of the State address in January, the governor called for legislation that identifies and addresses the gaps in Iowa’s mental health system.

The mental health bill began as a roadmap, created by the Complex Service Needs Workgroup to develop a more complete mental health system in Iowa. It involved stakeholders from across the state including providers, law enforcement, advocates and state and county officials.

“This legislation was pushed over the finish line by individuals and families who knew firsthand the importance of having a robust mental health system and the pain caused when services they or a loved one needed weren’t there,” Gov. Reynolds said. “I know we can do better, and with this legislation, we will do better!”

House File 2456 continues the modernization of Iowa’s mental health system that began in 2013. It ensures expanded services are available for Iowans in their own communities.

Access centers will provide short-term care for those in crisis and will have the resources needed to get Iowans back home to their families. Assertive community treatment (ACT) teams will provide individualized treatment and support to individuals with mental illness in their homes, 365 days a year. Comprehensive crisis services will include a 24-hour crisis hotline, mobile response and crisis stabilization services. Intensive residential service homes will provide individuals with severe and persistent mental illness with the chance to live with dignity in their own homes.

The Complex Service Needs Workgroup will also continue to assess the involuntary commitment process, the need for tertiary care hospitals and sustainable funding structures for the mental health system.

Senate File 2113 begins the process of addressing mental health in Iowa’s schools for our children. In Iowa, suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15 to 34-year-olds and the third leading cause of death for children 10 to 14-years-old.

Senate File 2113 requires training for Iowa’s educators to recognize the signs of a mental health crisis and to refer those children to the appropriate services. The bill further requires the establishment of protocols for suicide prevention.

“It’s vital that steps are taken to identify the early signs of depression and mental health challenges in children,” Gov. Reynolds said. “Through early identification and intervention, we can help prevent the loss of a child to suicide.”

The governor also announced her intention to sign an executive order establishing a platform to begin developing a children’s mental health service system. The system will be based on the 2018 Children’s Advisory Committee recommendations.